One of the best young stars in the NBA and arguably the MVP favorite for the upcoming season is Luka Doncic, aka “Baby Bird”. Luka approaches the game in a cut-throat manner like Bird did, although he does it in his own way in the form of a cheeky grin at all times. Luka and Bird both have confidence in their games and had the utmost versatility in all areas of the floor.
Therefore, it is only natural that Doncic is drawing comparisons to Larry Bird in his game because both players approach the game the same way and have an array of talents from scoring, rebounding, and passing. Both players also play below the rim and are incredibly dominant without having athleticism as their God-given gifts. But looking at Luka right now, could he be a better player than Larry Legend? Luka’s progression as one of the top-10 players in the game has been incredible to watch, but it is time to see if he compares to or even usurps the Celtics superstar.
Scoring - Even
In terms of scoring the ball, it is hard to differentiate between the two superstars. Luka Doncic is already averaging 25.7 PPG over 3 seasons of his career, with a season-high of 28.8 PPG. Luka can score from anywhere on the court, including the three-point line and also at the rim. In fact, Doncic should attack the rim more often because he is blessed with size and a very soft touch.
Larry Bird was a much better shooter, averaging 37.6% from three over his career compared to 33.1% from Luka. Bird also averaged 88.6% from the free-throw line compared to a below-average 72.5% by the Slovenian. But Doncic evens up this category because he has shown the ability to take over games with his offense, especially when he finds his rhythm from deep. As things stand, Luka has managed to equal Bird’s offense which is impressive so far.
Athleticism - Even
In terms of athleticism, neither player was a standout superstar. Luka stands 6’7” and weighs 230 lbs, while Bird was 6’9” and 220 lbs. Doncic has a strong upper body and a quick first-step which is impressive and actually looks larger than he is when he plays. Bird was taller and therefore a better rebounder, but he was not as quick as Luka.
But Bird’s height and length even up this category even if Doncic is quicker with the ball. Unless a player is clearly a better athlete, it will be hard to distinguish between Bird and “Baby Bird”.
Defense - Larry Bird
Neither Luka nor Bird is regarded as a standout defensive player, although Larry Bird grabs the edge once again. Bird made 3 All-Defensive Teams in his career, averaging 1.7 SPG and 0.8 BPG over his career. Bird also has career-highs of 1.2 BPG and 2.0 SPG during his career, something Luka has not come close to just yet. At the very least, Bird was a tall forward who could use his length to bother shooters.
Luka has yet to make an All-Defensive Team, and only averages 1.0 SPG and 0.4 BPG over his career. We all know Doncic is still very raw and has a ways to go before he can lock people down, but so far, his defense is not up to par with one of the greatest Celtics players of all time.
Clutch - Larry Bird
Luka Doncic has the clutch gene, and it is evident by the way he takes responsibility at the end of the games. Doncic has an array of offensive moves including a patented stepback jumper that he can get any time he wants, making him a scary player in crunch time. But he has at least a decade to go before he usurps Larry Bird in the clutch category.
Bird is one of the most clutch perimeter players in NBA history and uses his sharpshooting range to get off any shot he wanted. With a high release and supreme confidence, Bird is arguably the 3rd most clutch player in NBA history behind Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. As the story goes, Bird would often tell his opponents what he was going to do before doing it. Hardly any player ever compares to Larry Bird as a clutch performer and that includes Doncic.
Leadership - Larry Bird
Luka Doncic is showing tremendous leadership abilities at only 22 years of age because he has taken a very average Mavericks team to the playoffs the past 2 seasons. When The Mavericks were looking forward to a long rebuild after the retirement of Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki, the arrival of Doncic changed the entire plan of the franchise. Dallas was going to win now at all costs.
That shows the tremendous leadership ability of Doncic to be able to handle that type of pressure. But once again, Larry Bird is a different class. The Celtics legend won 3 MVPs and 3 NBA championships with the Boston Celtics and was the main reason why they had tremendous success. With a guy like Larry Bird on the team, you always knew who could deliver in the clutch and lead your team to victory because of his self-confidence and belief in himself. Bird’s raw talent and confidence made him one of the greatest leaders in NBA history.
Basketball I.Q. - Even
Both players have high basketball I.Q. because they are/were the best player on their teams and carried a heavy load on the offensive side of the floor. Bird and Doncic also have tremendous passing ability whenever there are holes in the defense and are proficient at rebounding the ball. But has Luka shown enough as a smart player to compare with the great Larry Bird?
The answer is yes. Luka is tremendously blessed with a high IQ and has a knack for impacting any game he plays in. Even if his shot is off, Luka will find ways to be effective whether it is finishing a game with a triple-double or finding ways to score the ball. Luka has gone through many games where his shot isn’t falling but finds a way to make his team win. Bird was renowned for his basketball IQ as a scorer, rebounder, and passer and Doncic is already showing similar ability.
Impact - Larry Bird
On both ends of the floor, it is hard to argue against Bird being the better superstar over Luka Doncic right now. Bird was a terrific rebounder, averaging 10.0 RPG for his career and a career-high 11.0 RPG in the 1983 season. Bird was also a gifted shooter, making the “50-40-90” club 2 years in a row in 1987 and 1988. It is likely that Luka will never achieve that feat at the rate he is going.
Doncic is a special offensive player as a gifted scorer and playmaker, but he has not done enough to gain the edge over a superstar of Bird’s caliber. Doncic is still only 22 years old with an entire career ahead of him, so he might continue improving his all-around game. But until then, Bird was simply a more impactful star, especially as a championship player.
1 on 1 Game - Luka Doncic
As good as Bird was as a shooter, Luka has shown special one-on-one ability. Luka is very explosive when he has a path to the rim and has no problem getting jumpers off against the tightest opposition. Doncic has also shown the ability to absorb contact and finish around the rim, making him a complete offensive talent. All he needs to do is improve his efficiency which could always be better.
Bird was a much better shooter and had some incredible offensive seasons, including the 1988 season where he averaged 29.9 PPG and the 1985 season where he averaged 28.7 PPG. Bird had a strong career shooting percentage, but Luka is doing things at an early age that is truly special on the offensive end.
Career - Larry Bird (Doesn't Count In Final Result)
In terms of career, it would be completely unfair to compare Donic to Larry Bird. Doncic has won Rookie of the Year, made 2 All-NBA Teams, and 2 All-Star Teams in his first 3 seasons in the league. Clearly, he is on an upward trajectory to becoming an MVP candidate for the rest of his career. But that does not compare to what Larry Legend has done in the game.
Bird completed 13 seasons in the NBA, winning 3 championships including 2 Finals MVPs. The Celtics legend also won 3 MVPs, made 12 All-Star Teams, and 10 All-NBA Teams while capturing Rookie of the Year as well. Doncic has a long way to go to match Bird’s resume and it would be hard for him to ever do it.
Luka Doncic vs. Larry Bird 1-4
Luka Doncic is on the right path to becoming one of the all-time great players. He has the skills, desire, and talent to succeed at the highest level and we might be looking forward to a legitimate MVP-caliber season by the Slovenian. The Dallas Mavericks superstar is already one of the top-10 players in the game, and he needs to find playoff success before he starts making a name for himself as arguably the best player in the game.
But looking at Doncic right now, it is hard to say he is an exact copy of Larry Bird. Bird was too special as a player, and the man who dominated the 1980s era of basketball alongside Magic Johnson, winning 3 MVPs and 3 NBA titles. Bird played on some great teams, but he was always the guy to make the difference in his team’s success. Doncic is on the right path but needs to have at least a decade in the league before anyone can start making comparisons to one of the 10 greatest players ever.
Luka Doncic: "You Can't Compare Me To Larry Bird. More, More Games To Go. I Just Want To Keep Hooping, Have Fun Playing Basketball."
Toni Kukoc On Comparisons With Luka Doncic: "When I Played In Europe That Was Exactly The Way I Played."
The Dallas Mavericks Potential Starting Lineup: Luka Doncic And Kristaps Porzingis Have To Prove It Can Work
John Stockton: "I Remember As A Rookie Larry Bird Walked By Our Bench And Said 'I Feel Like 43 Tonight.'"